Los Angeles-based The Furious Seasons’ latest offering, Look West, is a demonstration on how emotive one can be using very little. Its 12 folk/pop tracks, released in October 2016, contrast sharply with some of the more popular music of today. While the latter leans heavily on multiple layers (numerous instruments, electronically polished vocals, and sound effects), it manages to convey less emotion than what The Furious Seasons group is able to do in just one track.
Members David Steinhart (acoustic guitar, lead vocals), Jeff Steinhart (standup bass), and Paul Nelson (acoustic lead guitar, backing vocals) use their voices, their guitars, and, once in a while, a little something extra (like a violin or a very delicate sound effect) to convey a broad range of feelings. Sometimes it’s because of the melody; sometimes, it’s a particular turn an instrument takes; other times, it’s all about the very emotive vocals.
Warm and welcoming vocals open up the album with “Longshot”, which features a combination of plucked and strummed guitars typical to The Furious Seasons’ sound on Look West. This midtempo number also incorporates backing vocals and a violin. Soothing and almost feeling like a gentle lullaby at times, it remains uplifting throughout as the singer reminds his partner that they are not over by a “longshot” despite problems they might have.
Melancholy makes a heavy mark on some of the numbers in this set, such as the heavy-hearted “A Thing to Behold” or the heartbreaking “Summer Flame”. “Best Plans” is heart-wrenching, even more so with the creative choice the band made to strip it to only vocals and guitars. This emotion is even more potent in “The Tape”, which happens to touch on a topic unique to the album, that of a child who loses his parents. It makes the use of keyboards, which only make an appearance here, an interesting one.
Despite the melancholy it embodies, there is something of an almost cheerful relief in “Sadly Matched”. The singer reflects on the difficult choice between a lover and a city one loves, with the ultimate choice—the city—while painful, providing closure. The slow “What’s Coming Next” is sad, its delicate melody and instrumentation and sometimes tremulous vocals being almost apprehensive about the future.
Uptempo with a clear rock influence, “Simple and Clean” isn’t either simple or clean, alternating between a cheerful and light pop rock chorus and edgier, rougher verses and bridge. “Roll Out the Future” remains hopeful throughout as singer David Steinhart focuses on what is coming up next and on what power he has over it. The remaining traces of melancholy seem to be chalked up to opportunities lost in the past, making the hope in this track a mature one rather than a youthful, naïve one.
“Bad Man” is a title that is a little tongue-in-cheek, as David Steinhart reflects on his inability to be mischievous, however hard he tries in a bid to capture the attention of the person he seeks to woo. Because the melody is more rhythmic than most and because the lyrics skim to the whiny side, the song comes off a little like a childish complaint. Then again, the fact that the bad guys get the attention the good guys don’t get does trigger a child-like “no fair” response from most good guys.